One of Salford’s best-know faces over the last 25 years, former MP and Cabinet minister Hazel Blears, has received an honorary doctorate for her work in the fight against dementia.
The honour was conferred at a ceremony at the Lowry Arts Centre by the University of Salford.
For Hazel, born and bred in Salford and a passionate champion of the city and its people throughout her legal and political career, the battle against dementia has been personal.
Her mother Dorothy developed dementia and Hazel helped her dad Arthur to care for her. This experience led to her determination to fight against the condition and to press for more support in the search for prevention and a cure.
Hazel was a founder member and chair of the university’s Dementia Institute, which is dedicated to people living with dementia and seeks to develop and evaluate research into maximising the independence and quality of life of those with the disease and their friends, families and carers.
She is also a long-standing trustee of the Social Mobility Foundation and an Alzheimer’s Society Ambassador.
Hazel worked as a lawyer in private practice and local government for 20 years. She was also a Salford councillor for eight years and was elected as MP for Salford in 1997. Whilst an MP, Hazel held ministerial roles in Health, Police and Counter Terrorism and was Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government in Tony Blair’s Labour government.
She said: “I’m very proud of the work that goes on at the Institute for Dementia and grateful for the leadership and support of Helen Marshall the Vice Chancellor, Margaret Rowe the Dean and Prof Anthea Innes, the Director, all of our associates and colleagues.
“What makes it different is that a lot of the activity is driven by people living with the condition. We are making good progress in the fight against dementia thanks to places like this in Salford.
“We looked after my mum at home so I know how hard it can be for the families as well as the people with the condition themselves. The work the institute does is vital.”
Hazel is passionate about empowering people to take leading roles in their communities and in making commercial organisations be more socially responsible. Her favourite saying is: “Doing Good is Good Business.”
She added: “I was brought up in a two bedroom house In Salford with a tin bath but my mum always said we could do anything we wanted if we worked hard enough. The world could be our oyster.
“My upbringing gave me the grit I needed to fight to succeed and played a huge part in my success.
“I would say the same to the graduates today. If you want something enough and work hard for it then you can achieve whatever you want. Just keep going.”